When the weather turns cooler, those of us who rely on wood for heating will have much to do. Even if you are planning only the occasional summer cookout, fall bonfire or cheery winter gathering around the fire pit, you will need lots of firewood.
But, chucking logs and sticks into your stove, fireplace or fire pit with no regard to size or shape is anything but efficient.
To maximize your control over your fire and your return on investment you should properly size your firewood for the purpose. So, how long should your firewood be split?
For most applications, you’ll get the best results from your firewood if split into lengths measuring 12 to 14 inches long (30 to 35 cm), and three to five inches (7 – 12 cm) wide at its widest point.
This ensures quick, reliable drying, proper ignition, and effective control over heat and size of your fire. Larger or smaller sizes may be required for special applications.
Want to learn more about the proper sizing of firewood for any application? Keep reading and we will tell you all about it.
Efficiency is Important
Building and managing an actual fire as opposed to a heating appliance is not easy. It is a genuine skill, and there won’t be any knobs to turn or buttons to press if you want it to be hotter, or cooler.
You adjust the intensity and heat output of a fire by adjusting what kind of fuel you feed it and how often. Similarly, how long your fire will burn is dependent upon the fuel load.
Accordingly, you can afford yourself far better and more granular control over your fire by properly sizing your firewood.
Discounting small twigs and splinters that could be used for tinder or kindling, proper firewood, your primary fuel, is generally more adaptable to your purposes when it is cut a little smaller.
The 12 to 14 inches long and three to five inches wide nominal size mentioned above is ideal for feeding most campfires, stoves and fireplaces.
This ensures you will get meaningful heat and run time from what firewood you add without it being so large that it burns longer than you would like. It is also large enough to keep you from heading back and forth to the wood pile seemingly every five minutes to fetch more fuel.
Smaller Firewood Dries Faster
Anyone who has spent any amount of time tending a fire knows that seasoning firewood is essential to proper performance, efficiency and the reduction of smoke.
Seasoning is just another word for drying, and most species of wood in an average climate will require months to fully dry out into prime, usable firewood.
Splitting your firewood into smaller overall sections reduces the time needed to season. This is because the quantity of moisture held in the fibers of the wood is reduced compared to a larger section.
If you have ever chopped your wood into a variety of sizes you have likely noticed that the largest pieces, typically rounds intended for use in a bonfire or turning into a Swedish torch, take longer than all the others to properly season.
If you are already running behind on stacking firewood for the cold season, chopping it into a smaller size can help speed up the process and catch you up. If you decide to go with larger sizes, you must be prepared for dealing with only partially seasoned firewood and the complications that presents.
Smaller Firewood is Easier to Manage
Smaller firewood presents logistical advantages too, not just performance advantages. It is lighter, easier to carry and easier to stack. You can fit shorter lengths of firewood into or under smaller containers in a more efficient way.
When the time comes to stack, move, rearrange or inspect your pile of firewood your back will thank you that you are working with lighter chunks.
Remember that every piece of firewood you cut will have to be moved twice, at least. The first time on to the pile and the second time on to your fire or into your appliance. It might seem like a small thing now, but the extra effort you’ll put into moving those larger pieces will add up.
Also consider that it might not be you, stereotypically a young, fit and strapping man dealing with the firewood. It could be one of your elderly parents, a younger child or someone who is injured or otherwise infirm.
And a survival situation where maintaining a fire can be a literal matter of life or death, ensuring that the primary fuel is capable of being handled by everyone in the group is important.
Make Sure Your Firewood Fits in Your Appliance!
Lastly, one of the single most important reasons for cutting your firewood a little smaller is to ensure that it can fit in any appliance or fireplace.
Trying to coax and canoodle an overly long piece of firewood into a stove or firebox that cannot hold it is a great way to start an accidental fire in or around your home or get the fire to behave erratically.
Wood burning stoves especially come in a variety of sizes suitable for heating different size structures, and accordingly they will need wood cut to a particular size for proper use.
Fireplaces, too, today are found typically in standard sizes but vintage fireplaces could be any size. It is worth noting that most modern fireplaces are designed to hold firewood measuring between 14 and 16 inches long.
No matter what size appliance or fireplace you are dealing with, you’ll generally want to size your firewood to a length that is 4 in shorter than the appliance or fireplace is wide to ensure there is a gap between your fuel and the walls of the appliance or fireplace.
Obviously, if you are sizing firewood for use in an open fire pit of any kind you will have far greater flexibility in the sizes that you can utilize, but even so you should still size your firewood accordingly so that it does not overhang the bounds of the pit.
A too large piece of firewood that splits or pops can easily scatter sparks, or cause other pieces of wood to tumble and potentially result in an accident.
When in doubt, size your firewood a little smaller versus a little larger and you shouldn’t have any issues!
Properly sizing firewood ensures good performance in all aspects. A 12 to 14 inch overall length combined with a width of three to five inches will make for firewood that is easy to manage and handle while providing good heat output, burn time and behavioral characteristics.
Improperly sized firewood might not fit in the appliance or the fireplace being used and will make for more labor during storage and transportation.
Make your life easy and get the most out of your fire by splitting your firewood to the right size for the job!